Sun, 01 Nov 2020

Boris Johnson told Britons to work from home when possible and ordered pubs and restaurants to close early as he sought to stamp out a resurgence of coronavirus in the weeks ahead.

Under the new measures for England, which are likely to last six months, face coverings will become mandatory for passengers traveling in taxis and workers in the hospitality and retail sectors, with tougher fines for people failing to wear masks. Similar steps are being taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"This is the moment when we must act," Johnson told Parliament on Tuesday. By imposing restrictions now, the government can "shelter the economy from the far sterner and more costly measures that would inevitably become necessary later on," he said.

The measures are a reversal of efforts to re-open the economy after the first national lockdown shuttered social and commercial activity in March, sparking the deepest UK recession in more than 100 years.

They also illustrate the difficulty facing the government as it tries to balance the need to protect the economy and stamping down on a pandemic that's killed more people in Britain than any other European nation. Johnson's Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance warned on Monday that without action, the UK is on track to register 50 000 new Covid-19 cases a day by mid-October.

Under the new rules, bars and restaurants will be ordered to close at 10 p.m. from Thursday with all transactions restricted to table service. Plans to allow business events to resume from October 1 and crowds to return to live sporting venues will be put on hold.

With immediate effect, the government's message is changing to encourage more people in England to work from home, where possible. This applies especially to office workers, where individuals and their employers agree it is possible to work at home effectively, officials said.

Schools and medical centers will remain open and workers providing essential services will still be encouraged to go to their workplaces.

Johnson's announcement is a clear change in tack in the government's approach. Ministers have spent the past two months trying to persuade Britons to return to their workplaces to revive deserted city centers where sandwich shops and other hospitality businesses are struggling to survive. The government also subsidized restaurant meals throughout August in an effort to boost the industry and restore Britons to pre-Covid habits.

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